“Life is not tried it is merely survived
        If you’re standing outside the fire”

                                                 Garth Brooks

“Think of me Friday at 5” read the text from a foreign number.
“OK…” I typed. “…Who is this?” Ten minutes later my phone rang.

“Hey, remember when you found my high school sweetheart?”
“Is this Steven?” I asked, recognizing the story more than the voice. (Why do people just PRESUME you know it’s them?)

“Yeah,” he continued, “Well after all this time I finally called her. Finally got the nerve.” (No How are you? What are you up to? Nothing).
“You’re kidding!” I reflexed, both excited and intrigued. “So?”
“We’re meeting in Chicago, Friday at 5.”
“Cleveland time?”

He never answered, but it mattered not. My mind had wandered to Roslyn, New York, to the words of Larry Thompson at the end of the Joan Rivers movie.

“You’ve got to stand in the rainstorm if you want to get struck by lightning,” he said. (It touched a nerve that night and I’ve clung to the synapse since).

“YOU’VE GOT TO STAND IN THE RAINSTORM IF YOU WANT TO GET STRUCK BY LIGHTNING!” My friend Steve was out there—maybe I should be?

There’s this girl, you see. She flitters through my life in cameo appearances. Always warm, always safe, always friends. We’ll talk around it of course, but logistics protect us from what may be gravitational pull. Or not.

May 5 we last spoke—little contact since. This Tuesday, though, she texted: “You alive?” The midnight message had come in as I slept and was read the next morning. Now, late Wednesday, even before my response, mitn derinnen, here’s Steve!

Serendipity? Perhaps. Cause to think? At least. I can see anything when I want to. As such, still chewing on it that night— I called her. For thirty minutes we shared smiles and fluid conversation and….said goodbye.

Hanging up I felt worse. Struck me if I really wanted to get hit by lightning maybe I shouldn’t fear getting wet. I’m pushing 61, after all…hard. What’s the worst that could happen?

With pen in hand, (figuratively), I drafted an email. It was honest yet protective, leaving an exit strategy. Then, being me, I needed a second opinion—a lifeline.
Time to “phone a friend.”

Who was I kidding? My pals are either married or know even less then me. It would have to, then, be a kid. And so, with Jamie unavailable, sensing well that Michael would just roll his eyes, I called …STACY! I would bother the newlywed just long enough to read it, get her critique, and then….

And so it was that I called her cell and got voice mail, phoned her house getting same, and then Jason—also AWOL. Bad news, I knew, for the Jews: I was on my own.

Tweaking the note, I wrote (in pertinent part):

“I am totally comfortable with our friendship…I decided that if you were inclined, I wanted to date you…I treasure our friendship and don’t want to “weird you out.” If it’s not something that you deem do-able, I’d be thrilled to enjoy another forty years in the friend/zone….If you’re open to being open, I’d love to spend some quality time with you. No expectations, no demands—just time together. RSVP.”

Reading it again, I teased the keyboard. Then, in my best George Costanza, at 11:09PM, I thought “I’m goin’ in, baby!” Empowered, I hit SEND and went to bed.

At 11:48, as I slept, the response came in:

“I need a moment to give you a more thoughtful response. Not tonight…Let’s talk about this another time; not weirded out, just tired.”

My take (the next morning) was mixed. Perhaps she was just like me- a bit afraid to start something we might not finish. My hope, though, is that, like me, she is now ready to stand in the rain.

Love, I sense, is like a gin rummy game. There’s either a fast knock or a slow gin. It’s nearly 5 o’clock Friday, and I’m in Cleveland. My friend Steve is somewhere in Illinois. Both of us, it appears, are waiting for a gut card.


  1. Caroline says:

    This blog post struck a cord with me, Uncle Bruce. I just did the same thing with an old friend. It was scary to take the plunge, but if you don’t go for it you’ll always wonder “what if.” Good luck! 🙂

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